The Best-Kept Teaching Secret: How Written Conversations Engage Kids, Activate Learning, and Grow Fluent Writers, K–12


Harvey “Smokey” Daniels & Elaine Daniels

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    With special thanks to

    Michele Timble, Burley Elementary School, Chicago, IL

    Debbie King, Burley Elementary School, Chicago, IL

    Sara Ahmed, The Bishop's School, La Jolla, CA

    Kristin Ziemke, Burley Elementary School, Chicago, IL

    Brad Buhrow, Columbine Elementary School, Boulder, CO

    Michelle Nash, Burley Elementary School, Chicago, IL

    Nancy Steineke, Andrew High School, Tinley Park, IL

    Sheridan High School, Sheridan, AR

    Federal Hocking Local Schools, Stewart, OH

    Disney II Magnet School, Chicago, IL


    After 38 years of marriage and countless years of teaching, we have finally written our first book together. Why did we wait so long, given that Smokey has written 18 books in the interim? Well, we wanted to be sure the relationship would survive the perils of co-authorship. Raising kids and building a family seemed like minor dangers compared to the marital risks entailed in writing a book with a spouse. But now, the manuscript is complete, and no legal papers have been served, so we guess it worked. We should have started sooner!

    Without a jumbo posse of co-conspirators, this book would not have been possible. We have been working on this, our fondest project, for more than 20 years. During that time, we developed this book's strategies in our own classrooms, where, between us, we have now taught every grade from kindergarten through college, at least as guests, if not employees.

    And during all that time we've also been collaborating with a big, loose network of teacher-pioneers all around the county. We've been connected by our belief that written conversation is the single most neglected tool in our teaching repertoires—and that developing many examples and sharing them with colleagues is an entirely delicious pursuit. So above all, we thank all the teachers who tried our ideas with their kids, invited us into their classrooms, told us their teaching stories, and gave us many samples of kids' work that are the core of the book.

    It has been a joy to get to work with the energetic and talented Corwin crew, as they launch a brand-new line of professional books on literacy. The moment that our longtime colleague and friend Lisa Luedeke was hired to build this unique list, we voted “in.” Then, when marketing maven Maura Sullivan signed on, we knew the book would find its audience. And now that we have gotten to know Editorial Director Lisa Shaw and CEO Mike Soules, we know we are joining a team with a vision for the future of teaching firmly in mind.

    Thanks to everyone who makes our work such a pleasure.

    —SmokeyElaine DanielsSanta Fe, New Mexico
  • Works Cited

    Allington Richard. 2012. “Reading, the Core Skill: Every Child, Every Day.” Educational Leadership. Vol. 69, No 6. March.
    Atwell Nancie. 1987. In the Middle: Reading and Writing With Adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    Britton James. 1975. The Development of Writing Abilities, 11–18. London: Macmillan Education.
    Calkins Lucy McCormick. 1986. The Art of Teaching Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    Daniels Harvey. 2002. Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
    Daniels Harvey, and Nancy Steineke. 2013. Texts and Lessons for Teaching Literature. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    Daniels Harvey, and Nancy Steineke. 2011. Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    Daniels Harvey, and Nancy Steineke. 2006. Mini-Lessons for Literature Circles. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    Daniels Harvey, and Steven Zemelman. 2004. Subjects Matter: Every Teacher's Guide to Content-Area Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    Daniels Harvey, Zemelman Steven, and Nancy Steineke. 2005. Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher's Guide. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    Elbow Peter. 1973. Writing Without Teachers. London: Oxford University Press.
    Fulwiler Toby. 1987. The Journal Book. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    Fulwiler Toby. 2000. The Letter Book: Ideas for Teaching College English. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    Graves Donald. 1983. Writing: Teachers and Children at Work. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    Harvey Stephanie, and Anne Goudvis. 2007. Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement, 2nd edition. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
    Harvey Stephanie, Goudvis Anne, Ziemke Kristin, and Katie Muhtaris. 2013. Connecting Comprehension and Technology. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann FirstHand.
    Ivey Gay, and Joan Broaddus. 2007. “A Formative Experiment Investigating Literacy Engagement Among Adolescent Latina/o Students Just Beginning to Read, Write, and Speak English.” Reading Research Quarterly. Vol. 42, No. 4. October/November/December. Pp. 512545.
    Kajder Sara. 2010. Adolescents and Digital Literacies: Learning Alongside Our Students. York, ME: Stenhouse.
    National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. 2010. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Retrieved from
    Northeast Foundation for Children. 2013. Responsive Classroom. Retrieved from
    Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. 2004. Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, 2004. Retrieved from
    Routman Regie. 2004. Writing Essentials. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    Staton Jana. 1985. Dialogue Journals With Students With Special Needs. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
    Zemelman Steven, Daniels Harvey, and Arthur Hyde. 2012. Best Practice: Bringing Standards to Life in America's Classrooms, 4th edition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

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